Sunday, March 1, 2015

What's a Story without a Satisfying Plan B?

In your four-part roles as reader, writer, editor, and teacher your approach to story has evolved from the acceptance of the episodic to the appreciation of the ironic reversal.  No more conditions where an event triggers a response, any response, which sends us we off to the next scene where someone wonders aloud, "What are we going to do now?"

Structure presents itself and is invited to come into the living room and take a load off its feet and perhaps a glass of lemonade or would you rather some tea?  What kind of structure?  Why, dramatic structure, of course, structure propelled by the major players thinking they are aligned with like minded cohorts.  If we dwellers in Reality share anything with those who live in story, it is the mutual malady of thinking persons we like must agree with us.  Isn't that why we like them?

Injections of irony into a story sometimes get a bad rap; some critics you've read build on the meme of irony being the thing that closes on Thursday, speaking of it as though it were Lance Armstrong or Barry Bonds, denying their ingestion of metabolic enhancements.  You wish to add the word reversal to  the mix, thinking this takes us well beyond the kinds of irony associated with sarcasm, which has for so long become associated with teenagers who are impatient with their parents.  

You know this at close hand because your own teen-aged hormones and agendas, most of them focused on getting a girlfriend and writing things of publishable quality, led you to any number of sarcastic presentations to your parents.  At one point, you were glad to have these incidents beyond you because the memories of them did not have room for you seeing yourself at your best. 

This awareness opened the door to even later times when you were able to regard both parents without sarcasm, while seeing the dynamic between you in a near reversal, where you could visualize their potential for sarcasm toward you.  They, being who they were, did not return the sarcasm favor.  

In the way of your parents being first generation here in the U.S., you set forth on your own tradition by becoming first generation sarcastic teen.  This may have been your springboard for looking at the world through ironic lenses, and for being stunned by its appearance in the Jane Austen you'd read, long before you found Austin as comforting now.  Remember, you were hitting the high end of your teens and rushing into your twenties on the backs of Hemingway, Eliot, and that master ironist, Ezra Pound.  You did not wish to be seen admiring Austen then any more than you'd wish to be seen sitting at a cafeteria table with girls while in grammar school.

The first ironic reversal you were able to articulate came in several instances during the course of Austen's Persuasion.  Anne, its protagonist, has broken off her engagement with Wentworth, heeding the advice of an older mentor, and seeing Wentworth as unsuitable.  That was then.  

Wentworth has had considerable success in his career.  Now, Anne is in a position to see how favorable this success has been at making him more the kind of man an Austen heroine would consider.  But alas, he is paying attention to two young teen-aged girls who are clearly flirting with him, obvious in their gestures.  And Anne can do nothing about it.

Of course being helpless in such a situation as Anne's in Persuasion is just the sort of thing that requires the literary equivalent of an anabolic steroid.  Anne realizes her mistake, realizes she has feelings for Wentworth.  Now, the burden is on her, against considerable odds.  Except that the conventions of story render the effect of a directed verdict in a court proceeding; we know Anne is going to have another shot at retrieving what she has lost.

But the true ironic reversal comes in yet another Jane, in fact Jane Eyre.  Our eponymous protagonist has no doubt of her feelings for Rochester.  She loves him, but cannot be with him because he is married.  He suggests they move to Europe and live together, but she has  no desire to live as his mistress and knows that she would indeed become his lover were they to spend much time together, so it is So long, Mr. Rochester.  

But that is not enough. That may well be one of the strengths Charlotte Bronte brings to her fiction.  A man who is about to go to Africa to become a missionary, proposes to her.  In Africa, she'd be away from Rochester, whom she loves.  Lovely irony at work here.  She has to say no to love without marriage, whereupon she is offered marriage to a man she does not love.

Many of us--you included--respond to loss, or awareness of the complete inaccessibility of something we wish, by developing and pursuing a Plan B.  The more potential for Plan B in a story, the more depth to it, and the greater its potential for having a shelf life.

You can still get off on an episodic story.  There are occasions where nothing will do it for you the way a hamburger or tuna salad sandwich will do it for you.  But not for long.  You understand how a character has to be forced from Plan A, trying all the while to get a life of some lesser sort, in the process becoming enmeshed in Plan B.  However tempting it is to blame such twists on the Fates, our arguments fail in the fire of the knowledge that our hard-wired duality will force us to see some version of some truth, not necessarily our own.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Easy for You to Say

Whether the medium you're reading is fiction or some form of nonfiction (including personal and business letters), nothing throws you out of concentration on the text as too much information.  By "information," you mean details such as facts, descriptions, and, to add a nice caboose onto the train, opinion.

True enough, you're reading fiction and nonfiction to get at these very details you've just listed, but in the simplest, most direct terms, there are such fast-food hamburgers as The Whopper, The Big Mac, and the Super Carl; then there are the likes of hamburgers at two of your favorite restaurants, Sly's , the newly opened Brewery in Carpinteria, and Holdren's Steak House, where a hamburger is not a mere tick on a computerized cash register, it is an occasion as it comes from the kitchen, sits for a moment before you, then becomes a challenge to engage.  Knife and fork?  Cut in half and thus risk only half the amount of drippy management?  Take the entire thing up at once, signaling in advance for additional napkins?

Just these scant words on the nutritional and aesthetic qualities of the hamburger innards; more often than not, the cow supplying the meat was grass fed, which, so far as information is concerned, validates its condition at first bite.  Grass-fed, open-range cows impart a sense of participating in a meal with a sensual provenance.  You can taste the process as opposed to tasting the processing wherein a burger at the likes of MickyD contains a consensus of all cow-dom rather than the grassy tang of an open herd.

In fiction, information is often as open to diversity as a patty selected at random from one of the three fast-food establishments cited earlier, packed in to suggest notes of authority and the equivalent of peer review academic or scientific discourse. 

The taste is anything but sensual; more likely it advances undertones of cardboard or sawdust, or sandwiches served beach side, invaded by a splash of sand.  You don't want consensus or a sense of chewy sameness; you want the authority and integrity of a voice and the hint of being taken along somewhere you'd had no intention of visiting.

Never take the reader where the reader wants to go; this is a good recipe to follow in story because of the way it makes the reader curious to learn more information, reading with the hope more will emerge.  Good recipes, like good stories, sound simple, easy to prepare, worth the results.  But there are pitfalls in believing a thing that sounds easy, whether recipe or story, is all that easy.

Ah, easy.  Back in the late 50s and 60s, a talented ventriloquist from Spain, Senor Wences, began bringing his original and diversified routines to the United States, seeming to appear on the entire spectrum of TV from Ed Sullivan to Sesame Street.  A part of his routine was to convince some of his characters how easy things would be for them to perform if they would follow his instructions.  This gave us a view of the good senor's versatility.

"Easy."

"Difficult."

"No, Johnny.  Easy."

"Deef-e-cult!"

"Easy."

And Johnny's ventriloquist dummy response, "Easy for you.  Difficult for me."

Your own first impression in the matter of information is to put in everything that comes to mind while you're in the first buzz of composition.  Then, you take it out, a process reminding you of watching a woman pluck individual hairs from a brow line that wants to pull an Israel and establish settlements everywhere.

Easy is the sense you wish to imply in story and nonfiction, your best approach the umbrella tactic of learning to merge your speaking voice with the thinking one.  Write as you think, think as you write.  For good or ill, your thinking voice uses semicolons.  Any number of editors have spoken to you about this.  Easy is when you can say you'd never use a semicolon in a screenplay or a stage play, knowing your likelihood of writing in the screenplay form is limited, thinking you'd think twice about a semicolon in a script meant for the stage.  Easy is when you can say a reader who has patience to read you under any circumstances would stay with you for the occasional semicolon.

Easy goes well beyond that.  Easy is the quality you're after in story and nonfiction when there is no sense of style or word choice or even sentence length.  Nothing like that.  Only the sound of a story or essay, telling itself.  There is no music or narrative quite so fulfilling as the sound of a story or essay where the entire thread of information, detail, response, and personality sing out in an endearing, drunken, barbershop quartet, sometimes a bit sharp, other times a bit flat, emphasizing the true humanity behind the characters at risk before you, singing their hearts out. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Getting off on the Wrong Foot with Capt. Ahab

The pages of literature you read as a younger, intermediate, and now full-fledged reader are filled with narratives of men, women, and young persons who have in one way or another been wronged. 

Everywhere you turned, whether it was Montressor, the narrator of Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado," Edmund Dantes, wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, in Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, or Jim, the runaway slave who by his presence lends spine and stature to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

Among the wrongs visited upon these individuals, the impugning of family name, being used as a foil for a crime, and having his identity taken from him and sold along with him.  Throughout the history of story, individuals were wrongly punished or punished in severe degree for crimes of a minor nature.  Characters have been exiled, tortured, manipulated.  In one case, Tony Last, a major player in Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, is purposefully detained in a dense Brazilian jungle, doomed to read the works of Charles Dickens aloud to his captor.

Women have fared even worse in literature, forced into arranged or political marriages, such individuality as they may have had stripped from them in gradual chapters as their circumstances grew worse by the chapter.  Carol Milford, protagonist of Sinclair Lewis' Main Street,  a free-spirited, liberal-thinking woman, marries her childhood sweetheart, Will Kennicott, a doctor. No problem there; they are happy.  But then, Will is posted in a small, fictional prairie town, where both, but Carol in particular, are wronged by small-town small-mindedness and bigotry.

In a famous story out of trapper and mountain man legend, the noted trapper, Hugh Glass, experiences a severe mauling from a bear.  He is left to recover with a few of his trapper chums, but they, thinking Glass will soon die of his wounds, abandon him.  This becomes the reality-based act one of a classic story of revenge; Glass recovers.  Like Edmond Dantes, Glass seeks revenge.

Looking backward over your life, you do not see any instances where you might have claim to being wronged.  True enough, a number of things at a number of levels did not go as you'd hoped, and you find yourself from time to time wondering how things might have gone had you taken the offered job to run a massmarket publisher in New York.  But you cannot say you were wronged, nor do you nourish revenge scenarios to wrest back what was taken from you.

That said, the formula of the revenge story has a powerful, resonant appeal for you, helping you identify with characters from other times and cultures you've been made to like to the point where you want them to regain what was lost.  You want Sir Wilfrid of Ivanhoe,  to vanquish one of his arch enemies, Sir Reginald Front De Boeuf.  You want women who were abused by thoughtless husbands or fathers to not merely get away but find opportunities to exercise their inherent abilities, then come back  home to retake in symbol the dignity taken from them in actuality.

You want Ishmael to survive because his survival makes a moral statement with which you can identify.  He is a man who nearly had his life wrongfully taken from him by a megalomaniac. His revenge is to have understood the forces between which he'd almost been crushed.  Indeed, he was the only survivor.

Truth to tell, there have been two or three situations in which you'd comforted yourself by concocting revenge fantasies, imagining you'd worked your way into a situation where you could restore the justice of a situation you'd thought had got out of hand.  Further truth to tell, you had the actual opportunity to use your editorial position and skills for a close equivalent of revenge.  As you began the project, you felt a high tingle of satisfaction, until you realized that tingles of satisfaction at this level were not the reasons you'd put time, energy, and considerable concern into acquiring editorial skills.

Your own career path involved similar time, energy, and concern into becoming a teacher.  Both these paths had as goals the acquisition of skills to enhance and ratify your desire to be a writer.  There are some writing parts of you that have aspects of revenge in mind, the I'll-show-you kinds of revenge, but not the I'll-get-even type.

Revenge of that sort slows the growth of the process you wish to encourage.  Recent years and, of course, rereading and rethinking have brought you closer to thinking of Ishmael as a homie who got away from the revenge of Ahab with little more than the clothing on his back, wet, torn, and dripping, but able to get on with telling a tale of remarkable understanding.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Voice Over

 You didn't give much thought to the matter of hearing voices until Rachel told you she heard voices.  After all, she was your mentor.  Perhaps mentors heard voices.  Perhaps this was something you should look into.

Not that you had much time to do so.  Rachel asked you if you heard voices.  The effect was similar to the running gag on the Jack Benny radio program, where Jack Benny, out for an evening stroll, is accosted by the actor, Sheldon Leonard, portraying a burglar.  "Your money or your life?"

Long pause.  The sort of long pause only Benny or his pal, George Burns, could ride off into the sunset.  At length, "Well?"

And the punch line from Benny:  "I'm thinking.  I'm thinking."

"Perfectly alright if you don't hear voices,"  Rachel told you.  "Some writers see things.  They write down the things they see."

At the time, you were in your twenties, meaning there was not all that much of your life to flash past your eyes as you faced what seemed the death situation.  You were not at that moment aware of hearing voices or seeing apparitions.  This could have spoken to your fear that you were too literal to be any kind of a writer.  What kind of writer were you if you neither heard voices nor saw apparitions.

Saved by the bell, as it were, when you heard a loud voice saying, "Tell her you hear voices."

Voices, you said, and she said that's what she'd have guessed about you.  For a time, you had to be content with that one, "Tell her you hear voices."  That's all there was.  You'd catch yourself listening, trying to hear more, sometimes thinking you'd had a breakthrough only to discover you were hearing some of the things you'd had to commit to memory, things such as the Preamble to the Constitution.  Listening for a story and getting, "We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union--" was not comforting.  

While you were concentrating, listening, sometimes acting on whatever ambient lyrics rang through the karaoke of your mind, you began to notice things written about writers who impressed you.  Eudora Welty found her voice in--  Mark Twain found his voice in--Carson McCullers found her voice--  Writers all about you had found or were finding their voices, all of this leading you to the fearful conclusion you were never going to be anything like the writer you hoped to be because now you not only could not plot, you had no voice.

When you thought about your experiences in public speaking classes, you often had to make some effort to focus on a subject as remote as possible from public speaking because the results were so dismal.  

One public speaking teacher told you she was so in awe of your ability to say "Rubber baby buggy bumpers" over and over, your speed increasing with each round, and your developing skill set with "Are you copper-bottomimg 'em, my man? No, I'm aluminiuming 'um, mum," that she was giving you the grade of B, but you had to promise you would not sign up for the second part of the course.

Today, voices and all, is in many ways a mystery.  Having spent time looking for your voice, you went off the trail on many occasions.  Not until a student once asked you what to do if you came up with a voice you didn't like were you, in the act of preparing an answer, able to develop a strategy that worked.  You were not crazy about the voice you had then, probably because you were hearing so many at once that the aggregate tended to shout down the one you wanted most to hear.

The care and feeding of a voice is a precarious venture; there are so many splendid voices out there, seeming to be able to tell story with no obstacle.  There are times when you wish to incorporate them all, knowing in advance that would sound awful.  The best you can think to do is read the books and journals in which these voices appear, trying to sound them for effect and music and drama as you read, trying to capture the individuality the way you seem to be able to do with so many jazz musicians.

Much is written and said about the beauty of artful narrative, things such as how elevating some writers and their stories are, as well as things about how they seem to illuminate the dark, unexamined places of the human psyche.  You have no quarrel with such views, but for you there is a lingering, painful presence in the beauty, the pain of the individual writer, striving to achieve beauty unfettered by pain, striving, and always falling a tad short.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Don't Go There

High on your list of favored story types is the narrative in which an individual, with some trepidation,  enters a place she or he should not be, then discovers life-changing information with which the character is now bound to live.

Trepidation plays an important role because of the need it places on the character to be alert for the potential of menace, which can be seen or unseen.

The information can be in the form of some physical clue, to exaggerate the point, say a skeleton or some parts thereof.  The information can be a painting, photograph, or even a petroglyph, which is all the more disturbing because the discoverer, you see, will have had nightmares about the painting, photograph, or petroglyph. 

There are other ways for the information to be revealed:  a notebook or journal, a manuscript, an emendation on the margin of a printed book., a letter.  A packet of letters tied with a ribbon.

As for the information itself; it can be a revelation that someone is not who the character suspected.  Uncle Fred is not, in fact, a blood relative, rather the father of the character or the boyfriend of the aunt everyone thought was a maiden aunt.  The information is a challenge to the discoverer, casting doubt on the most precious thing most of us have, identity.

Perhaps the information takes on the metaphoric role of the ghost of King Hamlet, come back from the dead to swear his son to avenge his father's murder.

It is one thing to discover you've been given sincere but wrong information about some aspect of physical or existential behavior, yet another thing to see how some element with direct implications to who you are and your own place in the world have been kept from you all this time, all this time.  

Family secrets.  Specifics.  Your sister did not allow a rather lackluster marriage prevent her from a remarkable life.  Your own relationship with your brother-in-law, bordering on indifference from you, is mitigated by the fact of two nieces whom you adore.

A male cousin, some three of four years your senior, was someone you got along with well, based on mutual respect and admiration.  He, as well as your sister, had a less-than-spectacular marriage, producing two children and a cornucopia of unrealized dreams.  He and your sister had a long, enduring friendship to the point where you were aware each was the other's best friend.

Both are gone now, each in a dramatic way; he appeared to have fallen or was pushed from a mountain in Tahiti; she after a series of accelerated disasters after the mere tripping over her dog during an evening stroll.  A few years back, at a family gathering well lubricated with drink, you and one of your nieces voiced your hope to the daughter of your cousin that her father and your sister had managed to fortify the intensity of their relationship in physical as well as emotional ways.

This put your cousin's daughter in the same position of causing her to confront information, perhaps for the first time on a conscious level.  She was clearly surprised, then stunned, then repelled.  The word "gross" was heard a number of times.  Yet there were members of the family, indeed hoping.

You have not seen nor heard from your cousin's daughter since, nor has there been the trickle of information filtered through the family grape vine.  In your mind, this is precisely the sort of "discovered" information characters learn in this type of discovery story.

There is the strong possibility you've discovered something in investigating this outstanding dynamic from your own family within the framework of the kinds of discovery you applaud when they are made by made-up characters in concocted stories.  Resident elements of gossip and secrets made public are two enticing qualities.

You have for some time been of the belief much of your writing, even these vagrant lines, becomes wrappings about an armature of discovery.  When you plug the wrappings into the poles of a battery, you get something you learned from your cousin, the contented-sounding chuckle of an electric motor, turning its rotor, providing energy.

There are times when the discovery seems rather ordinary, but with greater frequency than you'd suspected when you began, you begin to understand more of who you are, and what lengths you've resorted to in attempts to tamp down those elephant-like bulges appearing in your living room carpet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Page One: Too Much Toothpaste out of the Tube

In your experience as an editor and a teacher of creative writing, the single most difficult aspect of story to convey to writers and wannabes is where the story begins.  Although you are far from content with the place where some published stories begin, you do see an agreeable pattern governing the place where most published stories begin.

You'd think wannabe writers would allow themselves to be guided by this overwhelming backlog of precedent-setting examples, but for several reasons, you'd be wrong.  A few of these several reasons start with the desires of the wannabe writer to demonstrate from word one the fact of being a writer.  

This often means an introductory sentence or paragraph describing the existential effects of the ambient weather on the protagonist of the story, at which point, the angst and vulnerability of the main character established, we may move outward to the effects of the weather on enough of the physical aspects of the character to allow her or him to appear within our imagination.

With luck on the reader's side, this type of beginning will only last a page or two.  But there are the feelings of the emerging writer to consider. Will she or he be content to allow matters to rest here, or will uncertainty prompt yet another demonstration of skillful, descriptive writing?   

All too often, this state of mind will lead to several paragraphs of what you've come to think of as edgy travel writing, descriptions of the setting in which the protagonist finds herself, recalling similar places, perhaps even this very place, at a happier time.

Things had been different then, she thought with a sigh.  Oh, yes, they had, which somehow is meant to explain why the character on stage is at the current moment feeling so wretched or depressed or unable to take the physical steps necessary to get the story moving.  

You advocate what you have come to call the eighty-five/fifteen approach, by which you mean opening pages, whether of a novel or shorter work, are eighty-five percent action against a background of fifteen percent description or reaction to the action.  When the boulder has been pushed over the crest of the hill, when a significant part of the story, perhaps even its theme, has been set in motion, we can alter the eighty-five/fifteen, often to the extreme of sixty/forty.  But not for long.

As soon as we find out what the boulder was doing at the top of the hill, how it had arrived there, and why the protagonist had, after all that work, decided to give it a shove to send it on its careening downward path.

Much of the time, when discussing and describing the aspects and consequences of action to emerging writers and students, you are patient.  This is so not so much because you were for so long that same, argumentative student or wannabe as it is so because of the parallels you see between the actor and the character, each relying on action with full body, with pacing and poise in the delivery of dialogue.  

You wish to impart this in such a way that you will not leave the wannabe or student with the impression you believe all action to be aggressive in its physicality.  There are times when a mere "No," is action enough.  There are times when one or more of the other characters will not take the no as definitive.

Actors were called players before they were called actors.  A player was a person who played a role, acted in a way that would give dimension and nuance to what the character did, said, did not do, and did not say.  A character is an actor the writer has casted to play this part, to interpret rather than describe the words and activities of the person involved in the story.

Like characters, actors have differing approaches to pushing the rock to the top of the hill.  Tom Sawyer had a fine technique for getting his chums not only to whitewash the very fence they'd earlier teased him for having to work on, they were willing to pay him for the privilege of doing so.

The ideal place for necessary explanations and backstory is the final paragraphs of a short story, the penultimate chapter of a novel, the reader's curiosity forcing the reader to stay onboard in order to get and process the explanations.  Few stories or novels work that way, a vivid reminder that beginnings are easy, endings less so.

The purpose of the beginning is to cause the reader to experience the curiosity for detail the emerging writer so often tries to head off at the pass with too much explanation, too much rationale, too many answers.

Story begins with movement built around desire, need, urgency, enough of each to cause the reader to wonder why and how this is going to end.  The art associated with the ending has to do with the way the writer is able to withhold the dynamics of the details for as long as possible. 

Too much toothpaste squeezed out of the tube.  How are they going to get the surplus back in?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fuck-You Letters and Confessions

Letters written in the heat of a reflexive, Oh, yeah? but not sent, as a result of Better-sit-on-it-for-a-while constraints define your being.

There have been, as you well know, many such letters written, some of them a scant two words and an exclamation point, others approximating the length of a short story.  Over the years, many of these have been sent, documenting  the precarious ratio of your reflexive nature against the the possibility of your learning something from the actual contents of the letters.

The passion behind the urge to write letters runs in close parallel to your need to set story and essay in motion' both are stirrings of the voice you were first barely able to define, then learn to trust as a guiding force that defines how you would make your way through the deserts, forests, and clutter of life.

There is little to be learned from a fuck-you! letter other than the memory of your defensive belief of having believed you were right in a specific matter.  But there it is, your defensiveness a pigeon coming back, not to roost but to relieve itself on your defensive form.  There you are for yourself to see, smeared with pigeon poop, in your defensiveness.

One letter, which you wrote but did not mail, composed when you were still in your second decade, was addressed to the editor of a magazine to whom you had submitted many stories.  "I may be funny,"  you wrote in response to a note she'd sent you,along with a check for one of the stories she accepted, "but I am damned serious about wanting to produce stories for your magazine.  To your twenty-something-year-old credit, you responded instead, "Thank you for taking your time to save me a good deal of mine."

Given the number of fuck-you letters you've written and sent, this fuck-you letter, written and not sent, taken side-by-side with the thank-you letter you wrote and did send could well have been a high water mark in your learning process.

The editor had purchased one or two of your stories for what at the time were called true confession magazines, except that they were not your confessions of things you'd done so much as imaginary transgressions of young women, concocted by you.  You were serious about writing them because they were all first-person.  Once again, I found myself unable to tell Eric, "No; not until we're married," and once again, I knew, in spite of all his assurances that we would marry, as soon as he turned eighteen, marriage was the last thing on his mind.

You were serious about wanting to learn into muscle memory the ways of first-person accounts of women and men characters who were real enough but not you.  As such things go, you were aware how often your dialogue and narrative observations led to humorous results.  

So was the editor, who also did the math for you, telling you how the five cents per word she paid you would have been all right if she'd been purchasing all the stories you sent her as she indeed purchased most of the stories from most of her regular contributors.  But when you factored the number of rejections against the scant few acceptances, you were in fact writing for less than a penny a word.  She may have even used the term "Pyrrhic victory" in reference to the enclosed check.

So much to be learned.  For instance, a mere confession is not enough, for the same reasons a fuck-you letter is not enough; you have to stay with both when they arrive--and the intervening years between the then of your confessions and fuck-you letters and the now of them have not changed much.  You still have to stay with both of them to discover what they really mean, and what your next step will be in each case.

The goal is not revenge, which is to say getting your own face back.  The goal is understanding how to avoid telling the same story over and over again.  The goal is understanding where and how to find the newness of the next.